“Truth is universal. Perception of truth is not.”
“All things are subject to interpretation.
Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
We live in complex times. Chaos seems to be the order of the day. And despite having access to information, on multiple platforms, we’re not any closer to knowing the truth. On the outside, it’s hard to separate the truth from perception and parts — from the whole. Oftentimes, it might be easier to believe what we’re shown.
As tourists or travellers, we aren’t immune from perpetuating a perception. Some of us want to fit in, some of us don’t want to lose out on the ‘perception — painting it as an experience, and some of us couldn’t care less. And that puts pressure on a discerning traveller: to either discover what has been already discovered or let go and see what’s hiding beneath the surface.
“We know so little about one another. We embrace a shadow and love a dream.”
― Hjalmar Söderberg
South Korea never featured on my travel bucket list. Back then, my only exposure to anything Korean would have to be my Korean friends and the arthouse films of Kim Ki-duk. Neither being in sync with the popular perception of Korea.
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe
I first visited Seoul in the summer of 2015. Tourism portals painted a picture of ‘love’ and ‘candy floss’. As I looked around, as a tourist, I saw how ‘cute’ everything was. K-pop blared on speakers, K-drama stars dominated billboards, and beauty products were the top selling souvenir to take back home. Against my better judgement, I felt it was easier to let go of reason and reality, and fall for the allure of ‘perception’. It’s comforting to succumb to escapism when it’s served on a platter.
“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.”
― Miyamoto Musashi
Few months later, in 2016, we found ourselves in Seoul again. This time, we had to find an apartment, make new friends, and get oriented to life — without candy floss. As I struggled with language, daily chores and loneliness; I realised how different the same city looked to me. Nobody tells you how difficult moving to a new city can be and I thought I had it easy because I had lived in Seoul before. But, the same sights looked different and perceptions began to melt into reality.
“The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world. From it proceeds every thought, every art.”
― Marilynne Robinson
It’s 2017, and I never thought I’d make it so far. I’ve made a lot of friends, both Korean and foreign, and my perception of Korea and the countries I have or want to visit — keeps changing. And ever since, I have begun doubting my thoughts on the places and people we’ve visited? Did I get it all wrong? I feel like the disjointed bridge between the islands of perception and reality.
“The more I see, the less I know for sure.”
― John Lennon
Coming back to where I started. Will I ever know the absolute truth? I doubt it. When you start seeing people as individuals and appreciate them for who there are, you realise: it’s not possible to subscribe to a single truth. There’s scope for multiple truths to coexist — each being true — at a given instant or place.